Lobeck's Reviews > Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
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Apr 26, 09

bookshelves: personal-narrative, travel, society-and-politics
Read in April, 2009

At times this book seemed to glorify main character Greg Mortenson as a savior-type figure for the Pakistanis he helped, an image I'm not really comfortable with since it seems to perpetuate the notion that Americans need to help the "third" world by imposing our values, ideas, and solutions on them in order to solve their problems. I don't think the book was necessarily aiming at this, since Mortenson did undertake projects that the villages approved of in culturally appropriate ways that helped to promote peace in an area of much conflict. Still, given that the notion exists, it would have been prudent to tease out the nuances so as not to perpetuate it.

Additionally, Mortenson's image of the rural eastern Pakistanis borders on that of the "nobel savage" stereotype, a racist and culturally harmful image that hints at an enormous amount of wealth and privilege on Mortenson's part that allow him to appreciate the "simple" rural Pakistani lifestyle. Again, I don't think this was the intention, but the failure to tease out the nuances allows the stereotypes to perpetuate themselves.

HOWEVER, I learned so much about the history of the conflict in Afghanistan and the political situation in Pakistan/Afghanistan/India in a book that is frankly fairly pleasant to read. Now it's much easier to follow current events in these areas and their implications for the current situation. I think a lot of Americans are lost when it comes to the politics of this region, so I think the understanding a reader can gain from this book makes it a valuable read despite the issues I had with it.

I also must acknowledge that, regardless of what kind of man Mortenson is, he does a lot of good work in Pakistan that has helped improve the quality of life in many villages and offers alternatives to the fundamentalist soldier training that is sometimes the only path to education available.
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Fawn I am always so impressed with your reviews Lobeck and wonder if you've ever considered becoming a writer yourself? I usually think, "Those are my sentiments exactly, but in such a more articulate, detailed and pretty package!"

I appreciate your review of this book--I am not loving it yet, but it seems worth finishing now. Thanks!


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